Oak Lawn’s First District Trustee Jerry Hurckes has already made a name for himself in local politics. Hurckes attributes this to several factors, which he says come together to form a successful politician.
“Politics isn’t rocket science,” Hurckes said.
“All you need to do is be active in your community, have a good name and be good at fundraising.”
Hurckes may be on to something with this philosophy. Although he is not well known outside of Chicago’s Oak Lawn suburb, within it many residents recognize him and have a strong opinion on both his politics and character.
“I like the guy, he’s done a lot for this community,” said Oak Lawn resident Aiden Connolly, 23.
“I voted for him when he ran for mayor a few years ago. Even though he didn’t win, I think a lot more people around here like him now after they found out what he stands for.”
What Connolly was describing was the culmination of Hurckes’ career– his unsuccessful bid to become the mayor of Oak Lawn in 2009. Hurckes also serves as Congressman Dan Lipinski’s Chief of Staff and president of the West Oak Home Owner’s Association. Hurckes believes that it is victories like these, and not losses like the mayor’s seat, that prove he has gotten his message across.
“The trick to politics is you have to build a support base and make sure that that support continues throughout your career,” Hurckes said.
“Look at Barack Obama. The guy has one of the worst sounding names in the country, yet because he made a name for himself and was successful in surrounding himself with strong supporters, he beat ‘all-American’ sounding John McCain.”
Not all are singing Hurckes praises, however. Oak Lawn resident Tom Schuh said, “What exactly has he done to improve this place? Snow doesn’t get plowed in the winter and grass doesn’t get watered in the summer.”
Schuh said he knows these example are not all because of Hurckes.
“But as an elected official it’s your job to make sure these things get done,” he said.
“It’s not just him I have a problem with, it’s everyone in charge of Oak Lawn.”
Whether or not residents are satisfied with the job Hurckes is doing, no one can argue that he has a lot invested in his community. Hurckes has been an Oak Lawn resident for more than 14 years and has raised his two daughters in the city.
“Whether it’s leading a Cub Scout group or coaching little league, we all need to be active in our community,” Hurckes said.
This kind of community involvement may be what Hurckes needs to continue his career in the political environment without former Chicago Mayor Richard M.Daley in charge.
“Politicians will be evolving in the post-Daley era,” said Dick Simpson, professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“I don’t know if we’re going toward true reform but [politicians] will not be as successful in building machines with Emanuel in office.”
This expected change is not intimidating Hurckes, however, who said he has no plans to leave the political arena anytime soon.
“I love the game,” he said.
“Campaign financing rules need to be reformed, but for all its faults, I love the game.”